One day, at around the same time a friendly gentleman with a clear fondness for footwear began turning up at C2 HQ, a small water cooler appeared in the kitchen. An unpretentious little thing (y’know, as water coolers go), filled up and topped off with wedges of lemon and lime, sliced cucumbers and fresh mint leaves for good measure. Tap water in a tux. A simple gesture, really, but a thoughtful and appreciated one nonetheless.
It’s a small example of what’s become known as “The Bajouk Effect” in these here parts.
Meet Simon Bajouk, humble, unfailingly helpful, polite to a fault and C2 Montréal’s very first Chief Concierge. As such, it’s Simon’s job to ensure that C2 participants receive the highest quality service along each step of their journey. Part of that is instilling a five-star mindset at every level of C2, and if anyone knows anything about what goes on in a five-star mindset, it’s the guy who’s spent the last 11 years working in five-star hotels.
Credit: Elisabeth Charbonneau
Truly, a concierge extraordinaire
A member of Les Clefs d’Or (“The Gold Keys”), an elite international association of concierges noted for its devotion to personalized service, Simon’s hôtellerie pedigree includes five and a half years as concierge at the St. James Hotel (where Madonna likes to call home when she’s in town) and then another nearly six years as Chief Concierge at the esteemed Ritz-Carlton Montréal before making the move to C2. It was, for him, a logical transition.
“A concierge creates a memorable experience for each guest,” Simon explains. “This was my role at the Ritz, and now the thing is to bring that hotel concierge persona to C2. Not only to create a memorable experience but to go beyond, to anticipate, to have empathy for the participants and to make the service at C2 part of the experience and not just something that we provide.”
Born to make magic happen
Simon says he knew that being a concierge was what he wanted to do from the very moment he heard that such a job existed. Which of course begs the question: why?
He smiles broadly and leans in. “You’re like a magician,” he says. “You’re the guy who makes it happen. If nobody can do it, then you call the concierge and you know what? They’re able to do it.”
In short, it’s the rush, something Simon expects to take to the next level in the very different environment that the three days of C2 Montréal 2018 will provide.
“Honestly, that’s a nice challenge,” he says. “I mean, a hotel is a hotel – you have walls and a desk and you’re there. At C2, that’s not the way it is! It’s constantly fluid, so it’s kind of a challenge for me but it’s a very cool challenge.”
Judging by that big smile again, he doesn’t exactly live in fear of life’s little problems.
“Noooo!” he laughs. “This is my adrenaline and I love it! At the end of the day, whenever you can wow people, this is why you live for your work. And if I’m not creating those wow moments, I’m dying, dying, dying – I need that dose of adrenaline every day.”
Credit: Elisabeth Charbonneau
In the immortal words of Axl Rose, “All you need is just a little…”
Concierges, as you may have gathered, are a special breed. In addition to an unparalleled commitment to service, an impeccable eye for detail and a virtually limitless capacity for problem solving, there are several other critical skills and traits that are absolutely essential in a concierge, beginning with…
“Patience,” Simon says. “You work constantly with people and sometimes you get asked the same question over and over again and you have to show them that it’s like the first time for you answering that question. Sometimes you’ll get the same question 50 times a day, but you still respond as though it’s the first time because it’s the first time for them asking that question.
“And you also have to be humble and non-judgemental. You can’t judge. You get requests sometimes that, from your perspective, are totally crazy, but it’s very important to them. That person came to you to ask that question because they trust you, so you don’t judge, you just do it.”
There’s no such word as no
Speaking of just doing it, as the concierge at a couple of key Montréal hotel institutions, one might imagine he’s had his fair share of challenging-ranging-to-strange requests. One would be correct.
“You get requests for cars, or they only want red M&Ms in their room, or they need to have a private plane arranged to go shopping in New York and come back the same day,” recounts Simon. “We had a guest tell us she wanted to do something really special, something more local, and it was a Sunday. So I told her, ‘You know what? There’s the Tam-Tams. It’s something very simple, and you go on the mountain so you’re going to feel local. What size are your feet? I’m going to buy you some nice flip-flops.’ And we prepared a Ritz-Carlton picnic blanket and basket with a tea service in it and scones, and we ordered a limousine for her…”
(If you’re having trouble picturing all this going down at the Tam-Tams – the weekly drum circle dance party in Mount Royal Park – you’re not alone.)
“It was a very high-end Tam-Tams, for sure, but for her, she was doing something very special. She felt so local. I mean, she had no idea that we [Montrealers] never go to the Tam-Tams like that, but we did it in a different way.
“Those are the kinds of crazy things that happen every day, but you have to be creative, don’t judge and you have to deliver, because that’s how you win their trust.”
And clearly, failure is not an option.
“No,” he states. “There’s a second option and a third option, but there’s no failure.”